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The Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) is authorized to identify, investigate and provide advice to the Government on threats to the national security of Canada. In certain circumstances, it can also take measures to reduce them.
Terrorism, including terrorist travel and the radicalization of Canadians, is the most prominent threat to Canadian interests and our national security. The intelligence community has never before faced a terrorist threat of this scope, scale, and complexity. It is CSIS’s top priority.
Daesh, and its rallying call, continues to dominate the extremist landscape, particularly in the Middle East. Though it is a fluid environment, Daesh has suffered losses in Syria, and around Mosul in northern Iraq. How Daesh responds to these events remains to be seen and it is a complex environment. Certainly, there is the potential for destabilization in the region, including the rise of sectarian tension. Regional actors will have to contend with events, including the potential movement of fighters.
Despite our relative geographic distance from events in Syria and Iraq, Canada is not immune to the influence of terrorist entities. And, while setbacks in Iraq and Syria run counter to Daesh’s myth of invincibility, its ideology continues to hold global appeal, including among susceptible Canadians.
Canadians with extremist views continue to engage in a range of terrorist activity, in Canada and abroad. CSIS is currently aware of approximately 180 individuals with a nexus to Canada who are engaged in terrorist activity abroad, approximately half believed to be in Syria or Iraq.
The activities of these extremist travellers vary widely, ranging from planning operations, training, and logistical support, to fundraising and studying at extremist institutions. There are some Canadians who have gone to Syria simply to live in Daesh territory. The participation of Canadians in these conflicts, in whatever manner and regime, is destabilizing to the countries in which they operate and certainly presents risks – both direct and indirect to Canada.
CSIS is also aware of around 60 returnees. Extremists returning to Canada have the potential to pose a significant threat to our national security. Returnees may respond in a number of different ways – from returning to normality, to radicalizing others, to financing or facilitating the travel of others, or to engage in attack planning.
While the principal threat to Canada remains extremists inspired to conduct attacks in Canada, we are also seized with other long term threats, such as cyber-attacks, espionage, foreign influenced activity, and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. While these threats may not resonate as much in the national psyche, the ramifications of them going unfettered could have a significant impact on Canada’s long-term economic prosperity and security.
For instance, Canada continues to be the target of malicious, offensive cyber-attacks by foreign entities. These attacks have become a tool of choice for a range of hostile actors including both state and non-state actors because they are efficient, cost-effective and, most importantly deniable.
A number of foreign states continue to be involved in traditional espionage and foreign interference activities as they attempt to gather political, economic and military information in Canada through clandestine means. Such states will pursue their own national interests through covert means, targeting Canadian businesses, political institutions and members of the diaspora. And Canada also remains a target for illicit procurement of advanced technology by those seeking to develop weapons of mass destruction.
National security threats are increasing across the spectrum. CSIS’s continued cooperation with our federal partners as well as with our foreign allies is and will continue to be integral to our investigations and Government of Canada response.
The people of CSIS are dedicated to the protection of Canada’s national security interests and the safety of Canadians. We are continually reassessing our operations, and the security measures we have in place to respond to the dynamic and complex security environment.
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